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In England and Wales, entitlement to read a will is dependent upon whether probate has been granted.
If the grant of probate has been issued, the will is now a public document and a copy can be obtained from the Probate Registry, after payment of the appropriate fee.
If probate has not yet been granted, a copy of the will can be requested from the executors, however they are not obliged to provide a copy, and should get permission from all named executors before showing the will.
If a grant of probate is not required, the will remains private although the executor will usually show the will to the beneficiaries.
For a will to be legally valid you must:
In England and Wales, it’s not a legal requirement to register a will.
In England and Wales, the law enables you to have ‘testamentary freedom’, meaning you can leave your estate to whomever you chose in your will.
However, under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, certain categories of people can bring a claim against someone’s estate if they believe that they have not been left ‘reasonable financial provision’ under the will.
To bring such a claim, you must fall into one of these categories:
It’s important that you seek specialist advice if you are considering contesting a will as there are strict rules and time limits in which to make a claim.
Executors, beneficiaries, and other family members can be guilty of misappropriation of estate property. However, it can be difficult to prove if there’s no record of the items taken.
The executor(s) of the estate should investigate such claims and ensure that all assets are returned to them.
Any individual guilty of misappropriating assets would be personally liable to pay them back. If they are a beneficiary, their share may be reduced to the equivalent value of the assets. If the value of the assets is above their entitlement, or they are not a beneficiary, then they would be liable to pay the monies back from their own assets, such as bank accounts or property.
If an executor takes assets, then it would also amount to a breach of trust and are likely to be removed from their role.
Misappropriation of estate property could lead to criminal consequences and in certain circumstances can be considered as theft.
If it’s suspected that a will does not reflect the true intentions of the person making it, or the will hasn’t been executed correctly, it may be invalid, and you may be able to contest it.
The validity of a will can be challenged on various grounds:
Contesting a will in the UK is a complex process and we advise our customers to take specialist advice at an early stage to support them through the process.
For further information on the above, or details of our products and services, please contact your Partnerships Manager or email [email protected].